The war of words between T-Mobile and YouTube continues, with executives from the wireless company claiming it’s “absurd” that the streaming service should care so much about T-Mo downgrading the quality of YouTube videos.
To recap: In November, T-Mobile introduced its “Binge On” program, which doesn’t charge users’ data monthly data allowances for accessing video streams from participating content providers. The catch is that videos watched via Binge On can be downgraded so that they are not necessarily the full HD feeds being pushed out by the video services.
The problem for YouTube, which is not currently participating in Binge On, is that T-Mobile is apparently downgrading — or “optimizing” as T-Mo likes to phrase it — all streaming video to Bing On users, regardless of whether the video provider is involved in the program.
“Reducing data charges can be good for users, but it doesn’t justify throttling all video services, especially without explicit user consent,” YouTube, which has asked the FCC to look into the matter, said back in December.
At a Citigroup investors conference this week, T-Mobile execs fired back at YouTube, according to the Dow Jones News Service.
“We are kind of dumbfounded, that a company like YouTube would think that adding this choice would somehow be a bad thing,” explained T-Mobile Chief Operating Officer Mike Sievert, who called the company’s position on the matter “absurd.”
T-Mobile CEO John Legere echoed the sentiment in a video statement, saying that, “customers have complete control over how or whether to use the benefits of Binge On, and these guys [the EFF and other critics] are lobbying for headlines to make that sound like a bad thing. Are they crazy? Seriously, what am I missing here?”
Legere also accused critics of “playing semantics” and accused “special interest groups, even Google” of “using net neutrality as a platform to get into the news.”
T-Mobile’s argument is that, because of the downgraded video feeds, Binge On users are able to access three times as much YouTube than they would be if the streams weren’t optimized.
But recent testing by the Electronic Frontier Foundation raises questions about whether customers are indeed getting “optimized” video or if T-Mobile is taking the step of actually throttling YouTube feeds, a potential violation of recently enacted net neutrality rules.
The EFF test confirmed that Binge On was slowing down all video feeds (not just YouTube) to about one-tenth of what you’d normally get on a 4G LTE connection, even when the phone could handle streaming at a higher speed.
With regard to T-Mobile’s claims that it is only optimizing these streams for broadcasting over cellular connections, EFF researchers contend that this is problematic because optimization should be coming from the content provider serving up the file, not the wireless carrier.
Trying to optimize high-definition video midstream, can actually end up resulting in stuttering and uneven video.
This matter is far from over, and you can expect both companies — and interested parties — to chime in with opinions and arguments until it’s eventually settled, whether by regulators or in some sort of arrangement between T-Mo and YouTube.